John’s Titans defeated the Whitmer Panthers on Friday, 53-41. The
Titans, who never trailed in the game, were not spectacular on offense
but did play good team defense and, by doing so, virtually shut down
Whitmer’s leading scorer and Purdue bound, Ryan Smith.
Smith, who came into the game averaging 20 points a game, never scored in the first half and, after scoring six quick third quarter points when it appeared the Panthers might be attempting to get themselves back into the game, scored only one 3-pointer the rest of the way.
The entire Titan squad played good defense but particular credit must be afforded Jay Springs. From the opening tip-off, Springs applied steady and relentless pressure on Smith. Springs’ pressure forced Smith to not only alter his shot but also forced him to work hard for his opportunities.
Spring’s intense defense, however, had its price as Springs had to be rested frequently and also developed early foul problems. In the wings, however, were junior Michael Taylor and, late in the game, senior Aaron Koonce, who both stepped forward to assist on the defense of Smith.
“They (St. John’s) simply exposed our weaknesses,” said Whitmer coach Bruce Smith. “We cannot win unless we find someone else to step forward and contribute on offense. Tonight, he (Ryan Smith) was cold, and he was not the only one who was, and no one could consistently find the basket. That cannot continue if we are going to be successful.”
In what is beginning to be a pattern, the Titan offense saw contributions from a number of individuals. In the first half, junior Michael Taylor enjoyed most of the success as he was able to penetrate along the Whitmer baseline for a number of easy lay-ins and one crowd pleasing dunk and 11 first half points. Taylor was joined in scoring by four teammates as the Titans amassed a relatively comfortable 41-33 lead.
The Panthers entered the game with the Titans undefeated and so it was to be expected that they would come out strong in the third quarter and, for the first four minutes, the Panthers did exhibit some additional patience. The Panthers’ increased patience resulted in some easy third quarter baskets and, with 5:47 remaining in the third quarter, the Panthers were knocking on the door as they trailed only 29-25 but it would be as close as they would get.
Suddenly the Panthers began to play more individually and taking shots too quickly and the Titans took advantage of this opportunity to once again slowly build a lead. By the end of the quarter the Titans were still leading by eight, 41-33.
In the third quarter, Titan junior Tim Simmons was the story. Up to that point in the game, Simmons had been relatively quiet. He had been a beast on the boards but he had not scored since the game’s opening salvo. In the first four minutes of the third quarter, however, Simmons scored eight big points and, by doing so, took some steam out of the attempted Panther comeback.
“I wanted to leave it all out on the court,” said Simmons.
The game’s fourth quarter was a surprisingly quiet affair. Although the Panthers only trailed by 8 entering the quarter, they never mounted a quality offensive surge. Their big offensive threat, Ryan Smith, was again shut down by the Titan defense and no one else stepped forward for the Panthers. As a result, the Titans cruised to their fourth straight City League win to stand alone at the top of the league at 4-0 and 5-1 overall.
The Panthers first loss of the year causes them to fall a game behind the Titans at 3-1 in the league and to 4-1 overall.
Only one Panther managed to reach double figures in scoring. Senior Beau Norton combined 2 3-pointers, 2 free throws, and one regular basket to score 10 points.
The Titans’ balanced attack was led by Michael Taylor with 16 and Cheatham Norrils and Tim Simmons with 11.
“Right now they are 12 points better than we are,” Whitmer coach Bruce Smith said. “They just did their thing better than we did our thing.”